The Future Self Pattern
Gives a person a view of how they might be in the future, and how different choices they make now could affect this future self.
It helps a person to value long term interests over short term priorities, overcoming a very powerful human behavior to act for one’s current self rather than one’s future. It also taps into the notion of “protection” — by making one’s future self a separate character from oneself, it prompts a user to be protective and try to help this future self.
Type of Design
Good for Contexts like
Engaging with the System
Making Strategic Decisions
Following Through on a Plan
Problems & Contexts It Can Work For
Use a Future Self pattern when you observe that a person either does not understand long term consequences of their behavior, or does not prioritize them over their short term needs.
This may be when trying to encourage a person to engage with a complex system — like getting them to save money in their retirement accounts, create an estate plan, or understand what their health insurance covers. It might be when they are weighing whether to use the system at all, or deciding which option is most advantageous to them. It can also be used to spur people to follow through on their strategies, and not let their behavior fall away.
How to Make It
Future Self patterns can be made by presenting text-based or media-based accounts of what the user might be like if they make a certain choice. It requires the designer to understand the user’s current details, and then to calculate what will result from these details plus the choices that the person might make.
The Future Self might also be presented through more generic persona stories. It could show the user analogous users to herself, and tell her what happens to them in several years or decades depending on the choices they make now.
Examples of the Future Self PatternWealthfront,